Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “You can’t stop him [Rafa Benitez] whingeing and moaning, he loves it. Liverpool played exactly the same way when they had Peter Crouch and he plays that way when it suits him. It’s great when a manager moans about me and my teams. If I can beat Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United home and away then I’m a major tactician and a very good manager. You must be to beat a Â£200m or Â£300m team with a side that cost Â£25m. He’d be foolish taking Sir Alex on. Sir Alex knows every trick in the book. He [Benitez] produces results and high-level performances for Liverpool whether you like his style or not. Managers are very transparent and we can’t help moaning and groaning. I’m the same. I’ve managed to psyche a few managers out in the past but no one has ever psyched me out because I don’t give a damn what people say.” – Sam Allardyce.
Runner-up: “Pavlyuchenko is capable of seriously strengthening Chelsea’s attack, to add both power and pace. I used to call him a sleeping giant. Since he began playing for Tottenham, he began to think more quickly on the field and he is now playing better. It’s a pity that the club [Tottenham] keep him in reserve. I would never do that. A talented player like Roman must play, play and play again. I think Pavlyuchenko would prove useful to Chelsea.” – Guus Hiddink.
Today’s overview: The transfer rumours speed into overdrive this Friday, with Chelsea looking to bring in new recruits and Arsenal looking to stave off interest from Germany for their prized-asset.
Aside from the above-mentioned quote linking Pavlyuchenko the Stamford Bridge, the Guardian’s Dominic Fifield announces that Chelsea are prepared to spend Â£45m to acquire David Villa. “Abramovich has recognised the need to inject new blood into the squad for next term. The owner has indicated that the majority of arrivals will have to be funded through sales, but he has proved willing to fund one lavish signing per summer in the past and is prepared to do so again to secure Villa.” The price drops in the Independent, Ian Herbert reporting “Chelsea have emerged as contenders in the fight to secure the Â£40m services of David Villa from Valencia.”
And there is more transfer speculation over Chelsea, Charles Carrick reporting “Chelsea are also planning a Â£10m swoop for PSG midfielder Stephane Sessegnon,” while Matt Lawton pipes up with “Russia winger Yuri Zhirkov is another long-standing target.”
The Daily Mail splash with the news that “Bayern Munich are trying to prise Arsene Wenger from Arsenal. Bayern are prepared to offer a Â£5million-a-year deal with a licence to recruit French and African players in the same manner he has with Arsenal. That will also be backed with the cash to bankroll lucrative contracts and big-name signings.”
All of a sudden, Jim White is clamouring to report on how Hiddink has transformed Chelsea. “Hiddink allies his observational skills with penetrative work on the training field. This is where he really excels.” However Steven Howard argues that Chelsea’s upturn has been sparked by Michael Essien, “Essien’s powerhouse display at Anfield on Wednesday proved just what Chelsea have been missing all season… Not only was Essienâ€™s pass completion the highest at 85 per cent, but he restricted Gerrard to just TWO passes to Fernando Torres. “
Matt Hughes runs his eye over the managerial options open to Chelsea at the end of the season. “Ancelotti would be a risky appointment as his range of experience is even narrower than that of Scolari, having worked in only one country during his managerial career. The paucity of other obvious candidates makes him a plausible favourite, although Frank Rijkaard and Dick Advocaat, the Dutch coaches, cannot be ruled out.”
In a second article by Dominic Fifield the hack suggests that it is now the Blues, not Liverpool, who can steal the title away from the Red Devils. “Given the psychological damage that has been inflicted on Liverpool’s confidence, the sense persists that momentum may even have swung back to Chelsea in pursuit of United in the Premier League.” James Ducker is the bearer of more bad news for Liverpool “after it was confirmed that Steven Gerrard, their captain and talisman, had suffered an injury that could curtail his involvement during the critical weeks ahead.”
Kevin McCarra rejoices after a great week of unpredictable Champions League football. “It is confirmation of the Champions League’s enthralling volatility this week that, with the exception of Bayern, it should be recent winners of the tournament, United and Liverpool, who are most at risk of elimination.”
After watching Manchester City capitulate in Hamburg, Daniel Taylor grabs hold of the silver lining that “had it not been for Shay Given’s consistently excellent goalkeeping, it is no Âexaggeration to say the return leg would now be a formality.” The former Magpie is also the focus for Tim Rich noting, “without a single holding midfielder to support his defence, Given was forced to endure the kind of evening that must have been horribly familiar.”
Owen Gibson acts quickly to beat the release of a CNN interview with Sir Alex Ferguson in which the Scot admits that Ronaldo was affected by celebrity lifestyle. Ferguson: “I think that he’s had temptations and I think there have been periods when you’ve seen the effect [on the pitch].” You see him walking back when United are defending, hands on hips, not chasing to recover the ball or make tackles. Heâ€™s not pulling his weight, which was obvious last Sunday against Aston Villa and in midweek in the draw with FC Porto.”
In other news, Brian Viner sits down with Bruce and Tahli Grobbelaar who reveal their thoughts on family, race and that match-fixing case. Martin Samuel interviews Boro boss Gareth Southgate, pointing out that “a bit like Tony Blairâ€™s pronouncements during the Iraq War, Southgateâ€™s speeches play better abroad than at home.”
Turning focus onto the Czech Republic, Jonathan Wilson writes about how “Karel Bruckner’s legacy looms large over Czech football so perhaps his successor Petr Rada was always doomed.”
Dipping into the Championship,Briatore is now looking for his seventh manager since taking over the club a year and a half ago… Paul Ince and Darren Ferguson, the Peterborough United manager, have been linked with the role.”
Finally, Shane Richmond has the story of how the Football Data Company has forced the blogger “FootyTweet,” to stop writing live football updates on Twitter. “You can’t just start publishing live match reports – it’s a service that can cost more than Â£15,000 per year, depending on how you distribute the reports and how often.”